The precise parameters of where grunge music begins and ends is inconclusive. Even Dave Grohl, one of the central pioneers of the genre, isn’t entirely positive on the matter.
“I mean, I’m not entirely sure what grunge is,” he told Sammy Hagar‘s Rock & Roll Road Trip in 2018. “You are grunge, my friend, you invented this shit!” Hagar insisted. “That’s just my face,” Grohl replied.
Grohl and his Nirvana bandmates may not have set out to contrive a new genre of music in the early days of the ’90s, but they did so almost effortlessly. Within a few years grunge music as a concept had leaped from its foothold in Seattle and found its way onto radio-station playlists across the world. Grunge combined styles that were at once new and familiar: the durability of rock ‘n’ roll, the drama of heavy metal and the unbridled rage of punk. It also added some angst. Life could be confusing and unforgiving — grunge provided the soundtrack.
“I remember our first record, because there’s some sad shit on there, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this is kind of depressing that tens of millions of people are relating to this,'” Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder said on 2020 episode of Mind Wide Open, a series launched by Chris Cornell‘s daughter, Lilly Cornell Silver, to discuss mental health and related topics. “That’s probably why everybody seemed to like [grunge] – it’s like they needed it. Like, ‘Yeah, this guy is speaking for me.'”
And then, just as swiftly as it arrived, grunge faded away. For Kurt Cobain, there was simply nothing more to be done. “I mean, let’s face it,” he told Rolling Stone in January 1994, just a few months before his death, “when the same people are together doing the same job, they’re limited.”
Limited, though, didn’t quite define the movement that had taken over a generation; it was one of the most inclusive periods of music-making ever. “Come as you are, as you were,” Cobain insisted.
During its half-decade or so of existence, the genre gave birth to some timeless records. We look at the Top 30 Grunge Albums below.
Top 30 Grunge Albums
From Nirvana and Neil Young to Melvins and Mudhoney — the best works to come from the ’90s movement.